The Schools of the ELCJHL have been in session for almost two months despite continuing problems in the Palestinian educational system.
The Schools of the ELCJHL have been in session for almost two months despite continuing problems in the Palestinian educational system. Lack of funding from international organizations protesting the Hamas party’s January election to the Palestinian legislature resulted in insufficient funding for the salaries for government health, education, and security workers. Teachers in the public schools, unpaid since March, have been on strike since the beginning of the school year. While some private schools have considered joining them, the Lutheran Schools in Palestine remain open. Schools’ Director Dr. Charlie Haddad has urged that students’ education not suffer as it did during the irregular school sessions experienced in the past during the Intifada and the curfews imposed by Israeli soldiers. Dr. Haddad and the principals are working with the private schools in the area to remain open.
Principals have noted an increase in enrollment this year and credit it to at least two factors. Some families of students whose schools are closed have come to register them with the Lutheran schools in the Bethlehem and Ramallah areas. Also of local significance is the report of the results on the national Tawjihi exam, taken by last year’s graduates; teachers and administrators are proud of the excellent scores of the students of the ELCJHL Schools.
This year staff and students are happy to welcome international volunteers who teach or assist in the Schools. Among these are Erin Abshire from Atlanta, GA (USA) and Julia Wachter from Germany. Each will work this year with the English or German classes at the Dar al-Kalima and Beit Sahour Schools. Students in all four Lutheran Schools begin to study English in Grade 1 and German in Grade 3.
Another short-term volunteer is Dennis Douglas, a church musician from Wisconsin, who came to teach music for two weeks at Dar al-Kalima School in Bethlehem.
He arrived with a group of eleven visitors led by Pastor Bruce and Cynthia Burnside of St. Stephen’s Lutheran Church in Monona, Wisconsin. Pr Burnside’s congregation has sponsored eighteen students in the Lutheran Schools through its Soup Groups, where participants contribute the cost of a regular restaurant meal for a simple soup supper and use the profits to benefit the tuition costs of needy students. Students and sponsors were happy to meet and greet each other since their last visit two years ago.
This month also marks the feast of Ramadan, a month long Islamic celebration of fasting during the day followed by traditional seasonal foods served after sundown. A few weeks ago, the three Muslim teachers at the Evangelical Lutheran School in Beit Sahour prepared for their Christian colleagues’ morning break katayef, traditional Ramadan pancakes, folded in half and stuffed with cheese or ground nuts. Even though the Muslim teachers did not break their fast, they enjoyed serving their colleagues, and the Christian teachers enjoyed the tasty dessert. This kind of cultural sharing exemplifies the religious dialog and coexistence that are core values of the Schools of the ELCJHL.